‘Batman’ Mass Murder Trial|in the Hands of the Jury

DENVER (CN) – Heated arguments over the validity of James Holmes’ insanity plea were the crux of closing arguments Tuesday in the Batman movie mass murder trial.
     Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 70 at the midnight premier of a Batman movie on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. His guilt is not an issue in the capital murder trial. His sanity is.
     “Three years ago next Monday, 400 people filed into this theater,” District Attorney George Brauchler began, showing a large photo of empty seats in the Aurora Century 16 theater.
     “They came in happy, some with loved ones, some with children. They came hoping to see a hero, someone who would fight insurmountable odds for justice. Instead, a different figure appeared, and he came with one thing in his heart, his mind – mass murder.”
     Brauchler, of Colorado’s Eighteenth Judicial District, is known for his closing arguments.
     He was no time before attacking the heart of the defense, reminding the jury that several court-appointed psychiatrists had found that Holmes was sane enough to know he was committing an egregious wrong, which he had planned meticulously.
     Holmes’ team of five public defenders, headed by Dan King, has spent 12 weeks in Arapahoe County Court telling the jury that Holmes’ schizoaffective disorder made it difficult or impossible to consider him sane at the height of his mania. On Tuesday, his attorneys stuck to their argument that Holmes’ disorder reached a climax the night of the shooting.
     “Reason and common sense are the two words you have to use,” King said. “You can’t just ignore the fact that he was mentally ill.”
     But Brauchler said Holmes’ “organized” plans were too calculated, for too long, to have been made in the throes of psychosis. Holmes hid his intent by buying ammunition and weapons piecemeal to avoid suspicion, hiding the plans from his therapists and family, and setting up homemade bombs in his basement for police he expected after the mass murder.
     “He knows his philosophies are against society’s standards of morality,” Brauchler said, recalling testimony of Holmes’ gradual isolation from a friend and girlfriend, both of whom reacted negatively when Holmes hinted at his plans.
     “He knows they reject his philosophy,” Brauchler said. “He knows his girlfriend, the only woman he ever loved, rejects his idea.”
     The defense recalled all the evidence that suggested debilitating mental illness in Holmes: enough to make it difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was sane enough to know what he was doing that night.
     “We’re not throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks,” King said. “(Holmes’) case is a contrast in contradiction. It doesn’t make sense.”
     King recalled the tests, evaluations, and video footage that not only exhibited psychotic behavior after Holmes’ arrest, but made it difficult to believe that Holmes was malingering, or faking his illness.
     “A young man raised in a good home, [who] did all the right things – that under those circumstances, this can happen, it makes no sense. There’s no logical reason for it,” King said.
     Brauchler didn’t buy it. Pointing at Holmes, he told the jury: “That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt, and he needs to be held accountable for what he did.”
     King recalled the first day of trial in concluding his argument, and asked the jury to consider broader implications of mental illness.
     “In opening statement, I said ‘You can run at this from any direction you want, and there’s no reason why this happened.’ I’m never going to ask you to speculate, or imagine something that isn’t there. Reasonable doubt means doubt based upon reason and common sense, which arises from a fair and rational consideration of the evidence in the case, or the lack of evidence.
     “Accept the fact that people get sick,” King said. “We in this country seem to be in denial about mental illness, and that denial seems to persist. If things are going to change, that’s going to have to change. Now is the time. This is the place. You are the people.”
     Judge Carlos Samour Jr. finished the day by reminding jurors of new admonishments for deliberations and the sentencing phase. If the jury finds him innocent, Holmes will be sent to a mental health hospital in Pueblo for the rest of his life. If he is found guilty, he could face the death penalty.
     Deliberations were to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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